Mystery and crime books from Australia. News, views, reviews, releases and author appearances - crime fiction in Australia. Crime novels, mystery novels, detective stories, police procedural books, thrillers and soft-boiled mysteries

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

2008 Ned Kelly Awards Long List

Australia's Crime Fiction award season is coming around again with the announcement of the long list of the 2008 Ned Kelly Awards. At this stage the long list is...well, long. As we draw closer to the Melbourne Writers Festival when the winners are announced, this list will be pared down to a short list.


Trick or Treat by Kerry Greenwood
Cherry Pie by Leigh Redhead
Endangered List by Brian Westlake
Harum Scarum by Felicity Young
Sensitive New Age Spy by Geoffrey McGeachin
Sucked In by Shane Maloney
Night Has A Thousand Eyes by Mandy Sayer
Orpheus Lost by Janette Turner Hospital
Amongst The Dead by Robert Gott
Appeal Denied by Peter Corris
Open File by Peter Corris
Gospel by Sydney Bauer
Broken by Ilsa Evans
Skin And Bone by Kathryn Fox
Fan Mail by P.D. Martin
El Dorado by Dorothy Porter
Shattered by Gabrielle Lord
The Calling by Jane Goodall
Shatter by Michael Robotham
Game As Ned by Tim Peglar
The Tattooed Man by Alex Palmer
Blood Sunset by Jarad Henry
Redback by Lindy Cameron


Golden Serpent by Mark Abernethy
Shadow Maker by Robert Sims
A Fraction Of The Whole by Steve Toltz
The Low Road by Chris Womersley
The Butcherbird by Geoffrey Cousins
Bye Bye Baby by Lauren Crow
Broken Swallow by JJ Burn
Green Velvet Shoes by Christina Ann Alexander
Frantic by Katherine Howell
Vodka Doesn't Freeze by Leah Giarratano
Iraqi Icicle by Bernie Dowling
Maelstrom by Michael MacConnell


Bondi Badlands by Greg Callaghan
Underbelly The Gangland War by John Silvester and Andrew Rule
Killing Jodie by Janet Fife-Yeomans
Red Centre by Dark Heart, Evan McHugh
Big Shots by Adam Shand
Lives of Crime by Tippet & Munro
Fatal Flaw by Roger Maynard
Ned Kelly's Jerilderie Letter by Carole Wilkinson
Wild Colonial Boys by Paula Hunt

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Book Review: Fan Mail by P.D. Martin

Title: Fan Mail
Author : P.D. Martin
Publisher: Macmillan Australia
ISBN: 9781405038263
No Pages: 400
Published Date: February 2008
Sub-genre: Thriller

Your words could make someone act.
You must stop writing this filth. It can only bring you pain, believe you me.
Yours Sincerely,
A fan

Sophie Anderson is a profiler with the FBI. She has been working with the behavioural Analysis Unit at Quantico but recently decided that she can be of greater benefit to crime victims if she worked in the field and has applied to be transferred to LA.

Sophie is more than just a highly accomplished profiler, she has an added talent that she prefers to keep hidden from her superiors within the Bureau. She has visions of the crimes she is working on. These visions sometimes put her in the role of the killer, other times as the victim or as an observer. Initially they were a deeply disturbing intrusion into her life, but as they continued, it was apparent that they had a habit of being unerringly accurate. She can’t control them but is beginning to accept them as a part of her and as a potentially vital tool to help her as she works a case.

Before Sophie even has a chance to walk into her office to take up duties in LA she finds herself thrown into a murder case. A crime novelist, one who had visited the FBI at Quantico, has been murdered and the novelists assistant called Sophie. The murder imitates almost precisely the way one of the victims was murdered in the author’s latest novel. Although the murder falls to the Beverly Hills PD to investigate, Sophie is drawn in thanks to having previously met the author before she moved. It’s a delicate position she finds herself in, having to tread carefully to avoid stepping on the toes of the officers involved, who wouldn’t appreciate the FBI muscling in.

As it turns out, the man heading the investigation is Detective Dave Sorrell, a homicide detective who has worked successfully with the FBI in the past and understands the value of using their resources. He’s a man with an abrupt manner which Sophie initially finds a little off-putting but they soon develop an efficient working relationship that gradually becomes quite complementary.

However their excellent teamwork isn’t enough, initially, to draw any great breakthrough in the investigation. And when a second crime author is murdered, also in the same manner as laid out in their novel, the stakes are raised enormously. Frustratingly for Sophie, the visions she hopes for to help in the investigation are either not forthcoming or apparently irrelevant to the case. It feels as though things are spiralling dangerously out of control when the third author is reported missing.

Fan Mail is more than the murder mystery it first looks as though it’s going to be. The solid forensic evidence gathering and criminal profiling put in by Sophie and Sorrell throws up some related cases and it looks as though it’s going to become a serial killer case, but their investigation always seems drawn back to the original murder.

Integral to the appeal of the story is the development of the working relationship between Sophie and Sorrell. It looks as though it has the potential to be the kind of friendship that will become a defining feature of the series.

Equally, the paranormal abilities of Sophie are beginning to take on more importance in the story. It’s a feature of the Sophie Anderson books that author P.D. Martin has nurtured carefully, refusing to rush the advancement of her abilities. It’s with a significant sense of careful development that we are experiencing her growth as she does.

It appears that P.D. Martin has developed a series within a series with an ongoing subplot that runs beneath the main story that is carried over from The Murderer’s Club and promises more to come in future books. It’s like you’re getting a 2 for 1 deal with two solid stories providing a memorable, multi-faceted thriller.

A word of warning on that last point though for anyone who hasn’t yet read The Murderer’s Club. Vital information about that book is revealed in the course of Fan Mail and it would be recommended that you go back and read the earlier book, if only to gain a clear understanding about what takes place here.

Fan Mail continues a strong series that has seamlessly blended the science of criminal profiling with Sophie’s paranormal abilities in a thriller that offers a great deal to the reader.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Reading Notes : A Deadly Business by Lenny Bartulin

I’m drawing to the end of Lenny Bartulin’s debut novel, A Deadly Business (pub. Scribe Publications). The book introduces Jack Susko, a Sydney second-hand bookstore owner, a character who is obviously going to be the main character in future books.

Jack Susko is an interesting character, quick of wit, long on endurance and just naive enough to get himself into a lot of trouble. The bookstore is very reminiscent of a number of the second-hand stores dotted around the city (sadly, most of them have closed down now).

“No, Jack Susko would not be retiring at the age of thirty-four. His view would remain the dusty shelves and battered paperbacks of the last year or so. Instead of up, he would climb down the steps into his basement shop in York Street in the city, where he spent the day making sure delinquent kids did not lift the stock.”

Jack gets the opportunity to make some easy money when Hammond Kasprowicz wants to buy every copy of poetry books by Edward Kass, an obscure Australian poet. Kasprowicz is prepared to pay $50 per copy for anything he had. The lure of easy money is enough to draw Jack out of his shop and, with a bundle of books under his arm he makes his way to Bellevue Hill and into the middle of an extremely confusing family battle.

Jack finds that there’s some competition out there in the search for Edward Kass books. Then he begins to have a few doubts about the motives of his client. Before he can act on those doubts, though, events swirl way out of control and the quiet bookseller finds himself busy dodging bullets.

I’m enjoying A Deadly Business. Bartulin has captured Sydney, both the landscape and the attitude of its inhabitants, with great accuracy. The book would have to be classed as a mystery novel as opposed to a crime novel and Jack Susko isn’t an investigator – not even amateur investigator. Instead he is a victim of circumstance who has been drawn into a conflict as an unwilling participant.

I’m looking forward to the next Jack Susko book to find out where Bartulin will take him.

Monday, May 05, 2008

May '08 New Releases

Crime fiction in Australia has been given another healthy injection in May with 4 new book releases and each of them looks to be well worth tracking down. This month I've been able to get a bit of a head start on the books, having read 2 of them and currently partway through reading a 3rd, so I can safely attest to the quality of crime fiction produced. The 4th book looks as though it could be a very interesting serial killer suitable for readers who don't mind the brutal fast-paced action thriller.

The Darkest Hour by Katherine Howell (pub. Macmillan Australia) - this is the second thriller by Katherine Howell and is the much anticipated follow up to Frantic. (Some places on the 'net still refer to this book as Panic which was the title that was originally proposed). The book features homicide detective Ella Marconi and follows a murder investigation dripping with complications. Some of those complications stem from the second strong female lead in the book, paramedic Lauren Yates who becomes crucial to the investigation. Howell works plenty of paramedic procedure into the book giving it a more interesting and unique aspect compared with other crime thrillers.

Blood Sunset by Jarad Henry (pub. Allen & Unwin) - another "2nd in a series" book. This is Jarad Henry's follow up to Head Shot which introduced Melbourne police detective Rubens McCauley. Blood Sunset takes us into the seamy St Kilda backstreets where we rub shoulders with the drug addicts, dealers and prostitutes who call the place home. Rubens is back at work after recovering from a gunshot wound but a mistake he makes when investigating a drug overdose death turns his life upside down. This is a strong hardboiled crime novel set in a searing summer heat in Melbourne. Bushfires surround the city which helps to add a menacing tone to the story.

A Deadly Business by Lenny Bartulin (pub. Scribe Publications) - this debut crime novel introduces Sydney second-hand bookseller Jack Susko in what looks to be the first book of a new series. I am reading this book at the moment and have been immediately drawn into Jack’s world thanks to Bartulin’s rich descriptive flair. Jack Susko is hired to find every copy of a certain obscure poet’s published books. It’s an unusual request that immediately flags all sorts of questions. The client is rich, the family has issues of some sort and Jack is going to get himself into bog trouble. This is shaping up as a very interesting debut crime novel.

The Silver Dagger by Jame McLean (pub. Longueville Books) - this is a serial killer novel that is set on Queensland’s Gold Coast, so immediately you know that all manner of lowlife criminals are going to be involved. Joseph Crowley is a detective whose job it is to track down a ruthless killer who appears to have only just begun. Reports are that the book is fast-paced and confronting and everything I’ve heard about it is positive. I’ll be reading The Silver Dagger soon and am looking forward to a brutal thriller. I’ll be posting my reading notes here when I’ve read it.

All up, not a bad month for reading Australian crime fiction books with the array centring largely on the police procedural sub-genre. There's a good mix of Australian locations involved here with a couple set in Sydney, one in Melbourne and one in Queensland.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Reading Notes : Blood Sunset by Jarad Henry

A couple of years ago I read Head Shot by Jarad Henry, his debut novel and was very excited to have discovered a crime novel that was both set in Australia and characteristic of the hardboiled crime novels I consider to be my favourite. After reading Head Shot I was eager to read more like it – as we spoilt, demanding crime readers are prone to do I was impatiently waiting for Jarad to write another. Apparently, writing another wasn’t a problem so much as finding a publisher.

A Welcome Hardboiled Novel

Then came the welcome news that Allen & Unwin picked up Blood Sunset and we find ourselves in business again. Blood Sunset is a follow up to Head Shot, featuring detective Rubens McCauley. McCauley is a no-nonsense, play outside the rules type of detective who works in the hectic inner Melbourne suburb of St Kilda.

To get what you want, you’ve got to know what you want. My mother first told me this when I was a young boy. Think hard about what you want, she said, for knowing what you want is more difficult than actually getting it.
It wasn’t until a few weeks before my fortieth birthday that I fully understood what she’d meant. I was sitting in an unmarked squad car, tired and hungry and thinking about bed, when a call came over the dispatch that would change the direction of my life forever.
(pg 1)

Rubens has just returned to work after recovering from a gunshot wound to the shoulder, the after effects of Head Shot. The opening paragraphs quoted above warn us that what is about to come is more than just your standard case.

Brief Synopsis of the Book

When he reaches the scene he finds what looks to be a routine drug overdose in one of St Kilda’s many back alleys. His first mistake is to hastily declare the death accidental. The second was the way he went around making up for the first mistake. Naturally, the first impressions were misleading and the truth, as it slowly unravels, reveals something far more shocking and dangerous.

Brief Impressions About the Book

Okay, that’s the shorthand synopsis of the book that gives you a feel for the plot. Now a few of my own impressions…

Jarad Henry has worked some powerful social commentary about life in Australia into the storyline through McCauley’s character. Issues such as the worrying growth of drug use by youths and the losing battle fought by police, the fear and neglect felt by members of the aging population and the sleazy side of inner city living.

The story is set in heatwave conditions with bushfires surrounding Melbourne and encasing the city in a choking smoke haze giving everything an otherworldly, energy sapping presence.

Rubens McCauley reinforces the impression that he is the typical hardboiled detective with many of the usual character traits. Even when he’s being circumspect he steps on toes. His methods get results and break rules. He owns a cat and is involved in a marriage that is in trouble. He has let down relatives and friends many times, feels guilty about it but ultimately his job takes precedence.

St Kilda is the sad, dirty backdrop to the story and is summed up by this Rubens McCauley observation:

A used condom, a dirty needle and a crime scene cop crawling around a palm tree. Very St Kilda. Maybe they could make a postcard out of it and sell it to the tourists. (pg 254)

Blood Sunset is a solid crime thriller that speaks loudly and, rather than merely touching on delicate issues, it charges boldly through them and tears them apart. It’s hardboiled, typically tough and definitely engaging. Rubens McCauley is by no means a saint but his is a character for whom you can’t help but feel empathy.

Brief Urge to Read the Book

This has just been released (May '08) and if you're serious about reading good, thought-provoking Australian crime fiction, then get yourself out and find a copy.

2008 Edgar Awards

The Mystery Writers of America have announced the 2008 Edgar Allan Poe Awards.

Down River by John Hart (St. Martin's Minotaur)

In the Woods by Tana French (Penguin Group - Viking)

Queenpin by Megan Abbott (Simon & Schuster)

Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy by Vincent Bugliosi (W.W. Norton and Company)

Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower and Charles Foley (The PenguinPress)

"The Golden Gopher" - Los Angeles Noir by Susan Straight (AkashicBooks)

The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh (Hyperion Books for Young Readers)

Rat Life by Tedd Arnold (Penguin - Dial Books for Young Readers)

Panic by Joseph Goodrich (International Mystery Writers' Festival)

"Pilot" - Burn Notice, Teleplay by Matt Nix (USA Network/Fox TelevisionStudios)

Michael Clayton, Screenplay by Tony Gilroy (Warner Bros. Pictures)

"The Catch" - Still Waters by Mark Ammons (Level Best Books)